Construction bids aren’t uniform

The Cayman Contractors Association read with interest your editorial titled ‘More contractors needed.’

The justification for the editor’s position in this article is based upon the premise that Cayman does not have sufficient general contractors to cope with the major projects that exist in Cayman. This position is supported by the fact that, although seven local contractors initially showed interest in Government’s school projects, in the end, only one bid on the projects.

The impression that one may get is that Cayman’s contractors are either too busy to handle large Government contracts or, worse, that they could not be bothered. Neither of these is true.

The seven contractors who pursued these contracts spent a fair bit of time and money on the pursuit of these projects, however, each had to drop out as a result of problems with the proposals.

The plans had been drawn overseas. Those who drew up the plans also provided the budgets, the construction time frame and drew up the contracts. Not surprisingly, the contracts proved unworkable in Cayman Law, the budgets were dramatically short and the time frames insufficient. The contractor who was finally awarded the contracts signed up under a completely different contract, a dramatically increased budget and an extended time frame.

How did this happen?

Was Government at fault for the handling of the contracts?

Although several of the CCA’s members lost time and money in pursuing these contracts, we maintain that Government itself was as much a victim as the bidders. The problem is the very system by which Cayman’s construction contracts are bid.

It may surprise the public to know that nearly every construction contract signed on Cayman is different from the next one. Most countries have a standard set of contracts that uniquely fit their own laws. Cayman does not.

Government could not, therefore, utilize a standard contract when none existed.

The CCA has praised the present Government extensively in this publication and others for their extraordinary efforts in bringing Cayman’s construction industry into the 21st Century. Our industry has for decades been plagued with three major ailments:

• A lack of a builders’ law that would protect the public from incompetent and/or unscrupulous contractors

• A lack of safety regulations to protect workers in the industry

• A lack of a set of standardized contracts that were written by and endorsed by all stakeholders in the industry and are used exclusively by all.

The present Government boldly addressed the first two problems by bringing all the stakeholders together. As readers will know, solutions have been attained that have received the unqualified praise of all and sundry.

What now remains for us to do is to create the Cayman Islands Works Contracts. Representatives from Government’s Central Tenders Committee, the Cayman Society of Architects, surveyors and engineers and the Cayman Contractors Association have all expressed their interest in meeting to correct this problem. The will is there. The time has come. The present Government has made good on their promise to partner with the private sector on solving two of the three major problems plaguing the construction industry.

With their vision we can correct the third for the good of all concerned and, at long last, bring our industry into the first world.

Cayman Contractors Association